I'll get to an actual review in just a sec, but first cynical me demands I say that A Little Liking, A Little Difference, and A Whole Mess of Product Placement is what they should have named this movie. Though at least I have an answer to the all-important question of whether Oreos exist in India (but not whether this market knows the right way to eat them).
Choco Pies, Oreos (what a combo that would be), Baskin Robbins, Starbucks, 7Up, Kwality Wall's ice cream, diet Coke, and McDonald's.
Also, holy crap, how many Abercrombie and Fitch polo shirts does Sid wear in this? At least forty-six, by my count.
His shirts were so distracting to me. I wonder why they didn't let him wear some other A&F clothes just to mix things up a little. This was like being stalked by a J. Crew catalog. The two significant scenes in which he wears something else were such relief, though they would have been awesome anyway because all the songs are very strong throughout thanks to great Shankar-Ehsaan-Loy music, lively and talent-showcasing choreography by Kalyan, Shobi Paulraj, and Raju Sundaram, and utterly winning moves by Sid.
"Aantha Siddanga"—and enjoy the Michael Jackson-y glove
Anyway. I would watch Siddharth watching the grass grow. I find him irresistibly charismatic in everything I've seen him in. He can communicate so much with just a glance or hip-flick, and he's got bounce and sparkle that remind me of prime Rishi Kapoor. That said, this movie starts very slowly and Sid's playboy character (also named Sid) left me totally cold. I had a hunch from seeing some of his other films that the character would grow up and fly right, but I think if I had been new to his work, I would have turned this off. Add to that the sort of patriarchal and inflexible values spewed by the heroine's father that of course form the obstacle to the love story and you've got a seriously displeased Beth.
Thankfully, heroine Geetha doesn't put up with Sid's nonsense and only falls for him when he does something genuinely kind and creative, and she continues to stand up for herself throughout their charmingly imperfect (for a film, anyway) romance. Tamanna Bhatia shines as Geetha and manages to make the familiar "more principled girl exasperated by immature boy" role neither too goody-goody nor too acquiescing. She's also very expressive, conveying that her character was, you know, thinking. This little scene of Geetha and Sid's first kiss cracked me up. He suddenly gives her a peck on the cheek, leaving her totally stunned,
and then she responds in kind, taking him and herself by surprise, looking like she just got away with something amazing.
Cute as it is, I couldn't shake the feeling that I'd seen this movie before—and I've only seen a tiny handful of Telugu rom-coms, all of them starring Siddharth, which is probably part of the problem with this one for me. Veracious said it best in her write-up, so I'm just going to quote her:
Because I was so underwhelmed during the first 40 minutes or so, I can't help but think maybe this "Siddharth + Telugu family entertainer with youthful romance at the center of it" combo is getting too old. Gasp, shock! I know, I didn't think I'd ever find myself thinking it, much less typing it. The thing is, I can't get my Siddharth fix off this movie as well as some of the others, and I don't know what to blame. Is it the script, his character literally being a pastiche of the Siddhu characters we've seen in virtually every film he's been in? Is it the fact he himself is uninspired? Is it the fact Tamanna miraculously outshines him? Is it just the damn silly haircut?The thing that prevented this film from blowing away like a dandelion puff in the breeze is its examination of the concept of family and the importance of parents in modeling good grown-up behavior. Maybe "examination" is too strong a word - there is some discussion of these very big questions by a few of the characters, but the ideas deserve more weight than they got (though I do salute their inclusion at all). Instead of potential in-laws who hate each other, Konchem Ishtam Konchem Kashtam gives us a patriarch who dotes on his little girl...until she tries to make a big decision on her own. He claims the usual: he wants the best for her, he would have hand-picked 100 potential grooms for her, blah blah blah. I didn't buy it. To me this guy read as someone who is very, very accustomed to getting his own way at home and in his immediate social group and structure, and he dislikes the idea of anyone crossing him. His objection to Sid specifically (in addition to not being someone he already knew of and promoted to Geetha) is that Sid's parents have been separated most of his life and he thus has no basis for knowing how to have a good relationship of his own.
What's interesting about this is that Sid's player behavior in the beginning of the film almost validates this criticism, as Geetha finds Sid so off-putting that she decides to x him out of her mind altogether despite his key presence in her group of friends—and who knows, maybe in the more simplistic world of the film Sid's lightweight loutishness actually does indicate dad is right. But Sid improves immensely through the age-old cure-all, the love of a good woman. The Sid dad meets is a good boy. Dad never even gives him a chance to prove his potential as a husband/partner/householder, though, dismissing Sid without knowing a thing about him or about his parents' ability to be good people and successful adults generally or good parents more specifically. There's no discussion of the other ways one can learn to be a good partner, which seems to me short-sighted about humanity generally and a very cruel thing to say to all the audience members whose parents' marriages were less than perfect. And somehow reuniting his parents is going to prove...what, exactly? That he's good at shenanigans (à la the much-despised-by-me Raj from DDLJ)? That people who hardly know each other anymore are willing to take another gamble on something that hadn't gone well in the first place? That's a model for partnership? Okaaaaaaay.
Sid's parents, played beautifully by Ramya Krishna and Prakash Raj, felt more dimensional than many filmi parents. Separated for eighteen years, they've mostly lived on different continents. To me they read as characters who found married life much more difficult than their romance would have suggested and have felt weary about it and about their decision to split for years.
Sid and Tamanna were adorable in their own ways, but I was even more impressed by the depth of these grown-ups. These characters and the actors' portrayals of them contrasted so nicely with the energetic, scrappy, and more light-hearted kids. Seems to me that having people teach you that life is complicated is pretty valuable, even if their own history shows you what not to do.
To summarize: eight fabulous songs, three strong and interesting leads, cute (though not cutest) Sid doing standard Sid things, more interesting discussion of social issues than I expected but not as much as I want, two very skippable comic side guys, and an added bonus of the fun-for-all-ages "count the polo shirts!" game.
And a request: I can haz more Samrat Reddy?
For more on Konchem Ishtam Konchem Kashtam, read Nicki and the much-missed Ajnabi. Special thanks to reader K, who sent me both this film and Ashta Chamma!